New Recess Bill marches through state legislature
Please stop blaming local School Boards, legislation created the problem
For the last several legislative sessions, groups of parents around the state have asked state legislators to pass new laws to mandate “unrestricted recess time” for elementary students. It was just a few years back that the state legislature passed laws that mandated “structured physical activity time” for every elementary student.
SB 78 would add the following language to Florida law:
“Each district school board shall provide at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day.”
The Tampa Bay Times has reported that the bill’s sponsor Sen. Flores stated, “Sometimes the Legislature has to step in” when local control of schools gets out of control.
I am a supporter of “free play” recess time. But what is frustrating about this issue is that local school boards, districts and schools did not create this problem. It was the legislature that passed laws to tell local school boards, districts and schools that we couldn’t have the age old “free play” recess time but must have “structured physical activity time” for elementary students.
In Citrus County Schools our administrators have tried to apply common sense and balance to these laws. Our elementary schools typically provide recess “free play” time for students daily except for the one week out of four or five when students have on the “wheel” Physical Education class. The “wheel” as it is often referred to in schools is a rotating period of the day when students have for a week music, P.E., art, media and technology. Then the next week students rotate to a different area. This permits our students to be exposed to these essential areas of learning.
What educational leaders and teachers have struggled with is how to meet all the other educational mandates and required minutes in current law while also providing opportunities for students to have recess and/or physical activity time. This is what prompted Senator Bill Montford the ranking democrat on the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K-12 Education and who is a former Leon County Schools Superintendent to speak out today and say that he backs the recess bill, but warns, “something has got to go” when schools add 20 minutes of recess without adding more time in the day.
Sadly, both what caused this issue, and what is being proposed is the result of state legislators overreaching into legislating our local classrooms. These are decisions that need to be left to local teachers, principals and school districts to decide and not state governments. Respectfully, instead of creating another new educational law, why not repeal existing ones?